During this pandemic, there is a phrase being thrown around called “contact tracing.” You may have heard of it briefly during a news broadcast about COVID-19, but it’s not talked about much.
But it should be.
Apple and Google had teamed up to develop smartphone technology they say to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The two are setting aside their normal rivalry to develop technology that will work across 3 billion iPhones and Androids around the world.
Traditional contact tracing is pretty labor-intensive. Health workers spend hours on the phone with infected people, going over where they have been and whom they have seen, attempting to track the spread of the disease. This new technology of tracing people’s cell phones could supercharge those efforts.
“For [contact tracers] to do their job, they have to identify who that person is so that they can pick up the phone, have the conversation and encourage them to take the steps that they want them to take so that they can stop spreading the disease,” data tech startup co-founder, Jared Allgood, said. “We’re trying to balance that … with the need to protect user privacy.”
There is even a call for people to take on contact tracer jobs.
Some city and state health departments are already seeking to fill thousands of these positions. In the position, a person can earn up to $65,000 per year — based on state populations and projected COVID-19 infection rates.
Contact tracing “is the best tool we have to manage this in an ongoing way and allow our economy to open up again,” said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who recently co-authored a major report on public health’s ongoing role in reopening America.
Watson estimates that the United States will need at least 100,000 workers trained in contact tracing across the nation, at a bare minimum, to keep COVID-19 at a manageable level.
According to her personal website, the technology added on to do high-tech contact tracing could lead to much less privacy in our communities. She eloquently breaks it down here:
“What Google and Apple are doing is using location data from your phones paired with COVID-19 status also stored on your phone to triangulate who may have possibly been exposed and infected,” explains Benton on her website. “This is happening already in China and S. Korea. Google and Apple have the power to track 3 BILLION people on the planet. Their plan is to roll out in 2 phases: the first through an app. The second includes modifying each tech giant’s operating systems to enable the data stored on the phone to be accessed. In both cases, the data will be transferred and